June 28

You’re Getting Divorced, NOW Your Spouse Wants to Work on Your Marriage!


deciding to divorce, divorce advice, divorce blog, divorce tips

Woman with scrunched up face wondering: Am I Getting Divorced?Your marriage hasn’t been good for years. Your spouse has been distant. What’s worse, your sex life is non-existent. You’ve tried everything you can think of to make things better: marriage counseling, couples retreats, “date nights.” Nothing has worked. After agonizing about what to do for what seems like forever, you finally decided you’re getting divorced.  But NOW your spouse wants to work on your marriage!

What’s up with that?!!!

Two cute dogs chasing each other over a stick.

The Power of the Chase

It’s no secret that human beings always seem to want what they can’t have. At the same time, nothing is more maddening than having spent years trying to get your spouse’s attention, only to finally succeed once you have given up trying and are actually getting divorced.

You can’t help wondering if your spouse wants you back because s/he truly loves you and finally understands that you are serious about divorce (which makes you wonder whether s/he has been living under a rock for the past few years!), or whether this is just some kind of stupid, selfish game, and the minute you give in, everything will go back to being exactly the way it was before.

The worst part is, unless you go back, you will never know whether things really can change. But, if you do go back, your spouse relaxes again, and nothing changes, then you will be right back to where you started from … except that it will be even harder to leave because by then you will have lost your momentum.

Wife trying to talk to her disgusted husband, who is ignoring her.

It is the perfect, horrible, Catch-22.

How to Know Whether Your Spouse Really Wants to Work on Your Marriage

There is no magic wand you can wave that will tell you whether your spouse seriously wants to try to put your marriage back together, or whether his/her attempts to get you back are just for show. But, you can try asking yourself these questions:

  • Can you have a productive conversation with your spouse about your marriage? Can you talk about what you want, what you are not getting, and what you will need to see in order for you to wholeheartedly re-engage in your relationship?
  • Does your spouse listen to you when you are talking?
  • Will your spouse go to marriage counseling (and really participate in the counseling, not just sit there like a lump)?
  • If your spouse has been having an affair, is s/he willing to end it RIGHT NOW?
  • If your spouse is engaging in other destructive behavior (excessive drinking, gambling, doing drugs), is s/he willing to take action immediately to stop that behavior? (For example, is s/he willing to go to rehab, or enroll in AA, or go to therapy, etc.)

If the answer to any of these questions is “No,” then no matter what your spouse says about wanting you back, you’ve got to wonder whether giving your marriage another try is really going to accomplish anything.

Finger pointing to a question mark in a box: why is getting divorced so rough?

Why Would Your Spouse Claim S/he Wants to Save Your Marriage Now?

Even though you may have felt like you were harping on your marital problems until you were blue in the face, believe it or not, your spouse might not have understood how important those problems were to you. S/he just might not have “gotten it.”

When your spouse finally understands that you are serious about getting a divorce, suddenly, s/he starts paying attention! Now your spouse is promising you the sun, the moon, and the stars if you will only give your marriage one more try.

While you may be tempted to give in to your spouse’s plea, you can’t help but wonder why it had to get to this point before your spouse took you seriously.

There are lots of possibilities.

1. Your spouse loves you, and doesn’t want to lose you, but was just stupid.

With all of the pressure and stress in our world, our focus is pulled in a million different directions. It may be that your spouse was too busy with work, family, and a thousand other things, to realize how bad your marriage really was – or that you were reaching your edge.

2. Your spouse didn’t believe that you would ever divorce him/her.

Maybe your spouse figured you would never get divorced because of the kids, your culture, or your religious beliefs. If your spouse did not believe that getting divorced was possible under any circumstances, s/he may never have been motivated to work on your marriage.

3. Your spouse wants the best of both worlds.

If your spouse has been having an affair, and you just found out, s/he might want to continue to have his/her cake and eat it too. Your spouse may genuinely want to try to keep your marriage together (perhaps for financial or social reasons), but yet not intend to get rid of his/her other “love interest.”

4. Your spouse knows your marriage is over, but is trying to manipulate you into staying until s/he can get into a better financial position.

Yes, I know how cynical this sounds. In truth, it happens far less often than most divorcing people think. But, it happens. Your spouse may just be buying time so s/he can strategically manage the finances to get the upper hand in your divorce.

5. Your spouse was confused.

Your spouse may have seen the problems in your marriage, understood that they were bad, but just didn’t know how to fix them. Or maybe s/he thought you didn’t want to fix them. As lame as this may sound, sometimes human beings simply don’t understand what they really want, or how to get it.

The perfect, happy family on the beach in the sunset.

Why Deciding that You are Getting Divorced is so Rough

It’s hard to let go of the picture of “the perfect life.” Even if your life wasn’t so perfect, or if, behind closed doors, your life sucked, it is still the only life you have known for a long time. It may not have been comfortable, but at least it was familiar.

It’s hard to make the leap of faith that it takes to believe that maybe, just maybe, you have to give up the life that looks so perfect (or the life that other people think is so perfect!) to get a shot at creating a life that makes you happy.

It’s hard to shatter the family that you thought would always be there for your kids, and risk doing untold damage to them, just because you want a better life. It seems so selfish! Yet, your kids aren’t stupid. What kind of an example will you set for them by being a martyr, and staying in a loveless (or toxic) marriage?

While no one can tell you what you should do, the problem is: You thought you had already made your decision!

You weighed the pros and cons, and agonized over your decision for a long time. You thought you had this down.

Now, after you finally got the courage to pull the trigger on your marriage, your spouse’s cries for “one more chance” have got you questioning yourself … again!

Words on a chalkboard: Listen to your heart (... and work on your marriage!)

So, Now What?

While there are many different techniques you can use to help you make decisions, when it comes to decisions of the heart, the best guide you can find is the one beating in your chest.

If you can, take some time and get quiet. Breathe, relax, and ask yourself what you should do. Then listen. Notice how you feel. Pay attention to whatever comes up.

Try asking yourself how you will feel if you decide to leave without giving your marriage another try. Will you regret not giving your marriage a second chance?

Then try asking yourself how you will feel if you decide to stay, and then within a short time, your marriage is just as bad as it ever was. Will you kick yourself for not leaving sooner?

Which decision feels better? (Notice, I didn’t say: which one makes more sense! You want to tune in to how you feel here, not what you think!)

Finally, know this much: there are no guarantees in life. No matter what you do, you may later wonder whether it was right. But doing nothing is a decision in itself.

Do you take your spouse back when you thought you were done? I don’t know. How do you feel?


If you do decide to get divorced, you have to understand what you are facing. Do you know the 10 Biggest Divorce Myths? Click the button below to get your FREE Report.


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  • Another option for couples in this situation is to find a Certified Discernment Counselor. With the guidance of a trained and experienced couples therapist, using a structured assessment protocol, you each develop clarity about the state of your marriage and the three choices for the future – (1) continue as is, (2) divorce, or (3) 6 months of focused couples therapy with a clear agenda for change, after which you have more information in which to make a decision with clarity and confidence. I find that couples often think the only option to a painful marriage is divorce – and they make that decision from a place of emotion and fantasy, without clarity about the financial and emotional realities. Or they stay because of fear of the unknown of divorce. The best decisions are fully informed ones, with the wisdom of the head and heart. You can learn more about the process and find a list of Certified Discernment Counselors at http://www.discernmentcounseling.com

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